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Millennials are pretty much like every other generation

The so-called millennial generation in the US is the focus of much media attention, much of it negative, decrying them as whiny, praise-seeking, self-absorbed, slaves to social network technology, and having a sense of entitlement. But a new survey finds that as they progress towards adulthood, they display many of the same characteristics as the generations that came before.

According to the study, before millennials have children they over-index on brands like Abercrombie, H&M, Apple, Macy’s and Sephora. After they become parents, those brands not only drop, some of them disappear from their consideration set. Instead, millennials shift to over-indexing against the entire U.S. population on brands like Dollar General, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Value City. About 44% of millennial parents are “very financially stressed.”

“These are not stereotypical millennial brands, and people are missing that,” said Mr. Gutting. “Millennials are not that different. We can’t keep going to marketing conferences talking about millennials as though they’re these oddities. They’re taking care of families now.” Only 7% of all millennial parents can be categorized as the millennial stereotype that focuses on name brands, stretches their incomes to the limit and are tech savvy.

But one difference stands out. As Michael Snyder shows with a sheaf of statistics, the younger generation is having a much tougher time finding jobs and making ends meet than their parents’ generation and that is disturbing.

Why are young people in America so frustrated these days? You are about to find out. Most young adults started out having faith in the system. They worked hard, they got good grades, they stayed out of trouble and many of them went on to college. But when their educations where over, they discovered that the good jobs that they had been promised were not waiting for them at the end of the rainbow. Even in the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, the full-time employment rate for Americans under the age of 30 continues to fall. And incomes for that age group continue to fall as well. At the same time, young adults are dealing with record levels of student loan debt. As a result, more young Americans than ever are putting off getting married and having families, and more of them than ever are moving back in with their parents.

Rather than complaining about the millennials, we should be worried about them.

Comments

  1. smrnda says

    People complain about a sense of ‘entitlement’ when nobody is really asking for more but what would pass for a standard social safety net in another 1st world country. I suspect it’s just comforting to accuse *other people* of having character faults; you see this with stereotypes of other groups as well. And good job pointing out that Millennials also contain poor and non-white people as well, though that might be a part of the hostility. Grouchy old white people dislike the new generation since it’s less white than their generation. They’re possibly imagining that white people can take care of their own kids, and looking to shred the social safety net so that *those people* and their kids get screwed.

    On social media and technology, I see no reason why there’s anything bad about using technology. I don’t suspect that a Stone Age person went on and on about how kids were using the wheel and fire and the lever and such.

  2. says

    I generally think that every generation thinks the generation after them is going to ruin the planet. As someone who’s part of the Millennial generation, I can really relate to the feeling of frustration about working hard, doing well in school, and then having difficulty finding a job. It’s not that we feel we’re entitled. It’s that we were told that working hard would pay off and are frustrated.

  3. Great American Satan says

    An artist I think would be classed as “generation X” said this about education:
    “Study hard and you’ll have a future
    Oh yeah? When the hell was that ever true?
    Study hard and you’ll still go nowhere
    Study hard and you’ll still get screwed.”

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Ani J. Sharmin @ # 2: … we were told that working hard would pay off …

    Much like those of us in the “Boomer” generation were told that the US had liberty & justice for all.

    We raised hell when we found out the truth – pls do the same, only better.

  5. says

    @smrnda:

    People complain about a sense of ‘entitlement’ when nobody is really asking for more but what would pass for a standard social safety net in another 1st world country.

    Very much agree. It’s not really a sense of ‘entitlement’. And certainly, when we are very young, we may have the belief that the world is totally fair or whatever, but we lost that belief a long time ago. It’s not that we’re naive and want the world to be perfect; it’s that we just want things to be better than they are. That’s not some unrealistic dream; it’s what anyone would want if they couldn’t find a job and if they felt like things were getting worse, instead of better.

  6. says

    @Pierce R. Butler (#4):

    We raised hell when we found out the truth – pls do the same, only better.

    Obviously. People keep saying my generation is apathetic and doesn’t care, but I don’t think that’s true. It’s that the great things done by previous generations have already been done and are known. Things my generation has done/will do aren’t known yet because we’re not 50 years in the future when our actions will be condensed down into nostalgic stuff to put in history books.

  7. says

    I’m at the leading edge of GenX (1966 – born to people born right after the war, in 1946, and who were thus themselves the leading edge of the baby Boom), and I’ve had the typical GenX life, in a lot of ways.

    The one difference is, I think the Millennials are awesome. They’re bright, socially engaged, making a real go of having a social-justice-friendly culture (because so many of them have grown up knowing gay people as members of the community and classes with more brown faces than white and having trans* friends of their own), becoming aware of their power in their native-speaker-like usage of social media and the older generations’ inability to as quickly or readily grasp the differences it makes in social systems.

    They’re no less or more interested in celebrities and shallowness than any other group of people I’ve met, and their music is better than any other’s, mixing and re-working traditional genres and delivery systems into a completely new way of doing mass music, bringing out fascinating and gifted musicians that we’d never have heard if they were coming of age in 1980 because of our cultural musical siloing, and the centralized control of music held by the record labels.

    I have a lot of friends who are 20-30, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They keep me honest, and I’m a better person for having their example to guide me. In social justice, their generation is just wiser than ours ever was.

    I completely empathize with the wretched disappointment of the job market; this is one way that GenX and Millennials have some overlap, as we were the first generation to face the “there’s no such thing as a career with one company anymore, get used to being a wage-serf”, and they’re facing unemployment rates of appalling levels, while the government crows about how the Dow Jones keeps going up and that this means “yay, the economy’s recovered!” – which just says to Millennials that the government has no fucking clue what their lives are like, because that recovery has done SHIT for them. They’re facing absurd levels of student debt because of the gouging by wildly-overpaid administrators, despite those administrators’ successful attempts to pull the ladder up after themselves, by making sure that no one born after 1965 will ever get tenure, and driving down wages for postdocs, on the principle of “Well, what else are you going to do with your doctorate, you did this because you loved the academy, so we know we can screw you over without fear of your leaving.”

    The stupid thing about the “too many trophies” bullshit is that even in so far as it ever actually happened, it wasn’t them doing it. It was us. It was the generations before who got into the “every kid is super-special and important in whatever way they want whether they’re good at it or not”-worship, not the kids who were on the receiving end of it.

    I don’t honestly know how anyone from the Boomers or GenX can ever look a Millennial (or the M.s’ kids) in the eyes, after what we’ve done to the planet in our lifetimes, and in the face of our intransigence to fixing it now – because we, the Boomers and GenX, we’re the ones who are running the companies and countries contributing so much to the problem. I know I feel deeply shamed by how we have behaved and are behaving, and by what we’re handing over to them, because it’s not like we didn’t know. I’m nearly 50, and Silent Spring was old when I was a kid. We knew this was happening, and not only didn’t we make it stop, we’re still continuing to make it worse.

    In the language of my own youth, Millennials Rule OK!

  8. Great American Satan says

    The young social justice crowd makes me think equality will be done better by millenials. I hope it takes in the larger culture.

  9. Great American Satan says

    Ugh. Silent Spring’s timeline for mass bird extinction proved a bit doomy, but the silence has come on all fronts. The canned Hollywood universal frog voice is local to me – Pacific NW tree frogs. In the 90s they’d be audible everywhere with a bit of wet green at night. I had them getting into my apartment sometimes. Adorbs.

    Now at night I hear fucking nothing, and haven’t seen one in over a decade. The silence is overwhelming.

    (tail end of Gen X / ’76, unemployed, desperate, big student debt, LTR with a millenial and we have so much in common!)

  10. says

    @Caitie Cat (#7): Awww. Thanks for the kind words. I really like to get the perspective of someone from Generation X. My parents had me a bit later in their lives. I’m Millennial/Generation Y, but they’re Baby Boomers (though born outside the US). So, we kind of skipped Generation X in my immediate family. I do have other relatives who are Gen X, but we don’t talk economics much, so it’s nice to hear from someone about the things that Gen X and Gen Y have in common.

    They’re bright, socially engaged, making a real go of having a social-justice-friendly culture (because so many of them have grown up knowing gay people as members of the community and classes with more brown faces than white and having trans* friends of their own), becoming aware of their power in their native-speaker-like usage of social media and the older generations’ inability to as quickly or readily grasp the differences it makes in social systems.

    The progress on LGBT rights is one of the things I’m actually proud of my generation for. Don’t misunderstand; I still see bigotry among my age group, but the progress is something that really makes me happy and hopeful that people in my generation will be motivated to do more good things in the future.

    The stupid thing about the “too many trophies” bullshit is that even in so far as it ever actually happened, it wasn’t them doing it. It was us. It was the generations before who got into the “every kid is super-special and important in whatever way they want whether they’re good at it or not”-worship, not the kids who were on the receiving end of it.

    The “participation trophies” argument always bothers me, because, really, even if you get a participation trophy, you know it’s for participation. We still know that the other person/team/whatever won. We understand it’s a consolation prize. It especially seems weird to me that people make the argument, because there is so much focus on sports and being the winning team, etc. that I find it weird people can look at that and think that we weren’t getting that “winning is really important” message, too.

  11. smrnda says

    Thanks for the nice words for my generation! I actually feel very encouraged by people younger than me; they aren’t being brainwashed by the nonsense and prejudices that it used to take so much work to overcome.

    On the economy, we haven’t had a single period of economic growth in my lifetime where ordinary workers made ANY GAINS AT ALL. It’s a world of declining standards here in the States.

  12. rq says

    This is a revealing post, and thanks, CaitieCat, for your comment #7! This topic has been recently coming up on my FB timeline, starting with this putdown of generation Y (or WHY?), then this truthful response to it, and finally this rather sarcastic yet humourous apology video from those same genYers.

    I think it goes back to the age-old issue of the current generation in power looking down on the youth trying to follow in their footsteps, and finding them wanting.

  13. doublereed says

    Whenever I feel Millenial entitlement brought up, it sounds like the older generations are blaming Millenials for actually wanting the government and systems to work. And all I see is lazy, complacent, fatalist older generation that complains about how nothing ever changes.

    Citizens are supposed to be demanding! That’s how shit gets done!

  14. Guess Who? says

    Hi, CaitieCat, I’m the same age as you, and I’d like to point out that Gen X (especially our age) were the original latchkey kids, the original generation that had it noticeably worse than our Boomer older siblings, and graduated high school and college during the Reagan years, where we were “living here in Allentown” where society was crumbling before our very eyes. We grew up knowing the popular music wasn’t made for us, the tv programs weren’t made for us, the advertising was not aimed at us. We grew up being lectured that we were “less than” because we hadn’t fought in VietNam (because most of us weren’t even born when it was going on). We were the ones, degrees fresh in hands, stuck working in cafes and record stores for minimum wage while our Boomer comrades clucked their tongue at our “laziness” and predicted we wouldn’t ever make anything of ourselves. Our entire working lives have been spent behind the 8-ball because we as a generation had to sit on our thumbs waiting for the Boomers to drop crumbs from the table. The Millenials, children of the most coddled generation in history (the Boomers) had it much easier growing up, but they’re running up against the same barriers we did.

  15. mnb0 says

    It’s simple. Every single generation after mine sucks – except of course the kids I teach. They are OK. Oh and except me and my mates my own generation sucked as well.

  16. smrnda says

    The older generation has no problem demanding that Millennials’ tax money be used to fund their Social Security and Medicaire.

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